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Differentiating questions | helping people distinguish between type 3 and type 7

Enneagram 3s and 7s are among the most common “look-alikes” on the Enneagram so it is not uncommon for 3s to think they are 7s or 7s to think they are 3s, at least initially. They do have a lot in common on the surface. Both types are forward moving, energetic (although 7s are more so), positive in outlook (although 7s are more so), do get bored and don’t like that feeling (although 7s more so). Both 3s and 7s also “plan,” but very differently. In other words, to help people sort through whether they are 3s or 7s, it is necessary to go beneath the surface, beyond behavior.

Here are some differentiating questions that you might find useful. Two caveats for the questions to work effectively: (1) the question only works if the person has narrowed down the possible types to these two only and (2) once the question is asked and the answer is offered, it really matters that the guider/teacher/coach understands the meaning of what is being said.

Question approach | focus
How long can you focus without extreme effort: as long as it takes to get the job done or not very long because your mind wanders and you have to then put a lot of effort into staying focused?
Listen for this
Type 3 | For 3s, focus comes very easily because they set their focus on a specific goal or target and then stay with it until the job is done. They have almost a laser focus on projects they need to complete.

Type 7 | For 7s, focus is a challenge for them because they get easily distracted by new possibilities, thoughts streaming through their minds, external stimuli, and other factors. Some 7s will say they are focused, but it is important to ask them for how long and whether or not staying focused requires a great deal of effort.

Question approach | planning
Do you go into practical planning mode quite easily when there is something you want to accomplish or is your way of planning more ideas in your mind, without necessarily a specific, pragmatic call to action that will take you from initiation to completion?
Listen for this
Type 3 | 3s are known for having goals and immediate, actionable plans. They may not write down their goals and plans because if it is not a complex task, there is no need for them to do so. Without goals and plans, most 3s feel highly disoriented.

Type 7 | When 7s plan, it is primarily ideas and lots of them. Executing these plans, on the other hand, is usually something 7s would prefer others to do. Practical, pragmatic and detailed planning is not what most 7s enjoy or like to spend their time doing.

Question approach | options
Although you likely like to have options and enjoy multi-tasking, how many options to you really want and need?
Listen for this
Type 3 | Most 3s like options, but within limits. With too many options, it is hard for them to get the results they want. Doing everything can lead to getting very little done, and 3s love to get things done.

Type 7 | 7s want unlimited options; otherwise, they feel boxed in. In this way, having their options limited feels like an immense loss of freedom, something they believe is a necessity in their lives: unlimited options and unbridled freedom.

On my website, TheEnneagramInBusiness.com, there is a special section titled “Enneagram Style Differentiators,“ where you can click on types 3 and 7 to read about how they are similar and different. This section may stimulate additional differentiating questions you can ask. Click here to be directed to this section.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of six best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com